German public prosecutors investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann said on Thursday that they assume the girl is dead.
Braunschweig state prosecutor Hans Christian Wolters said in a statement that a 43-year-old German national, who is now the prime suspect, is being investigated on suspicion of murder.
“From this you can see that we assume that the girl is dead,” he added.
Madeleine McCann went missing from a holiday apartment at the Portuguese resort in Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007, nine days shy of her fourth birthday. Her parents were dining with friends at a nearby tapas restaurant.
Local police concluded that the suspect had broken into the apartment and kidnapped Madeleine, but her body has never been found. No one has been charged in the case. The girl's parents have been cleared of any wrongdoing.
A breakthrough happened this week after British and German authorities said they closed in on the suspect, a 43-year-old paedophile, who is currently serving jail time for an unrelated sex crime and has two previous convictions for the sexual abuse of children.
The man, who was not publicly named, had resided in a house in Praia de Luz and was driving a camper van in the resort in the days before Madeleine's disappearance, according to police.
McCann's parents said on Thursday that they are hoping for closure in the case after the suspect was revealed.